Vol. 18 No. 14 · 18 July 1996

While He Lies on a Table under a Round White Light

Shannon Borg

323 words

my father sleeps a half-sleep, half out of the world.
As the surgeon pulls open his sternum, I’m waiting

at a table in the corner of this bar in a city
a thousand miles away. The moon pulls at my father’s blood,

and I am caught in the shadow of his dream’s evening;
I hear the groan of his old Nash Rambler, dragging

tumbleweeds far from his desert – those empty veins
cloud the roadside. I’ve driven far to get away

from where I was, on other desert highways.
Lying there, my father must wonder where he is and why

I love poems about the moon – he knows how
each night it rises low and gold on the horizon

(round as the mouth of this glass), and later
you look and it’s small and white in the sky –

not like the sun’s morning anger – some nights
the sky is empty. In this poem, the moon is not my father.

The surgeon snips a frozen vein and stitches in
another while I drain a glass, take cash from my bag.

The moon is pulling us through the night together,
and the stars have formed new constellations –

the Lake of Years, Diamond Net of Fear.
My father is drugged, dragged by the tides into rough

blankets of sleep, and I walk out
to the parking lot, fumble with my keys;

I see the surgeon’s red hands while I’m holding
the steering-wheel steady. My father moves through

the post-op dreams they told him would come, followers
of pain. He wonders if he should keep his eyes closed

and I wonder why I want to give the moon a soul
like mine. Why this desire to gaze down upon myself

at night, navigating streets between skyscrapers
or desert red streams? The freeway speeds

away beneath my car. The drive home promises
to be long – the roads are full, empty, full.

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